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An African Woman’s Burden

“When he offers you thin love, don’t take it just because you have thick skin. Say no to loving a person more than they love themselves” – Upile Chisala

According to Nigeria’s Director of Women Development, “The more we try to put the blame on the men folk, the more we will continue to turn blind eyes to the fact that many women are the cause of the domestic violence we see today.

This is because we fail to understand some important aspects of how most men are wired. Some women also cause violence by using abusive words and misguided utterances that can provoke the men”.

There is never a reason to physically or emotionally abuse a woman. Secondly and most importantly, domestic violence rates are high because masculinity is too fragile. We teach men from a young age that they have power and authority over women. As adults, these same men believe they have ownership over women’s bodies, actions, voices, and thoughts. When a woman says anything or does anything that challenges masculinity, the response by a man is almost always a violent one. Recently, we’ve heard stories about women who were killed, raped, or insulted because they rejected a man. As a woman, you must live with a constant uncertainty about how a man might react to your words, laughter, walk, and clothes. Just being yourself and living your best life seems to elicit danger.

Rather than blaming victims for using their voices, we should be focused on teaching men to unlearn these behaviors. Most importantly, we should be punishing men for actions that deny a woman’s humanity. How can we accept that a woman insulting a man or questioning a man is enough of an excuse for her husband, boyfriend, father, or son to abuse her? Statements like the Directors, reinforce this destructive behavior, teach women that their voices must be censored, their experiences don’t matter, and silence victims of violence.

Throughout my life, i’ve been taught and shown that a good African woman is one that endures for the sake of her family and society. In fact, enduring is in some respects a right of passage. It is a fact. Something unchanging and unwavering. It is a reality. For many, enduring all manner of abuses, challenges, and disrespect is a normal part of being a woman. I imagine that somewhere around the world there is a mother, sister, or daughter crying alone. Hurt by the fact that the man she loves never seems to see or appreciate the light in her. That woman will accept the physical abuse. She will endure them without question or concern. She will swallow them with the same ease she drinks water. She will cry alone tonight, uncertain about her life all because society has decided that masculine violence is more acceptable than a woman speaking her mind.

I am frightened. Sometimes I worry that I have learned the language of enduring. If I am honest with myself, my past relationships show I’ve been practicing a dangerous tongue. We must teach women that it is okay to walk away, that love isn’t violent, and that they are always enough. I have to remind myself that It is okay for a woman to choose herself. My emotional, spiritual, and physical strength is just as important.

I admire the woman that endures and the woman that finds peace in leaving. Both women are forced to make extremely difficult and complicated decisions. Choices they shouldn’t have to make. So today, I pray for the women that suffer in silence. By God’s grace, their burdens will be lifted.

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